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Coming soon in digital... Folk'd Up Beyond All Recognition
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Folk'd Up Beyond All Recognition

Below you will find the opening chapter to Folk'd Up Beyond All Recognition…I'm always keen to have feedback on my writing, so if you have any comments - be nice people - do drop me a line!!

 

The Meeting with the Goddess

FFFFFSssssssssshhhhhhhh. The oil sizzled around the load that just been dumped into its midst, heating the captives within to hundreds of degrees in seconds.

“Ma?”

Linda Morrigan didn’t have time to look back to where her son sat. The chips had gone on. Right. That was that done - a few minutes before they’d need to come out. She wished they’d been able to afford of them deep fats that had the wee bleeper instead of this Poundstretcher special. The bread was frying on the pan; she flipped it and it sizzled angrily, adding to the chip-sizzle; the whole kitchen sounded like a snake farm being toured by the Mongoose royal family.

“What is it Danny son?” she said, affording him as much of her attention as she could. He was only ten, God love him, and he hadn’t yet learned when was a good time to try and attract his Ma’s attention and when, for the sake of his digestive system and its continued health, he should let her get on with things.

“What does my Da do?”

She did glance back at that, only because of the unexpectedness of the question; truth be told she’d expected it to be a plaintive inquiry about whether Steve could stay the night (yes, so long as the television in the room stayed off Channel 4). “He works for Ordnance Survey, love,” she said. “He’s a cartographer…am…“ she fumbled for a term that he’d probably find more descriptive, “…a map-maker. Sure I thought ya knew that?”

Danny looked a bit dubious at that. “But hasn’t all Ireland been discovered already?”

Taking the grill tray out to inspect the bacon, she couldn’t help but laugh as she turned the rashers over. God love him. “He’s not going anywhere people haven’t been already, son. He goes around with a wee special camera and he…” she struggled here, because she’d never really taken a blind bit of notice of what Tony did for a living, so long as it brought in the wage (which it had) and paid the bills (which it did), “…well he measures distances and heights and stuff. And they make wee maps from it. Or big maps. You know that big map of Ireland you have on your bedroom wall? The lovely big one? He helped make that!”

“Oh,” Danny said. He seemed deflated by this. She supervised the chip basket removal and the fried bread and the bacon and shovelled his share onto his plate. He grabbed it and was about to troop out when she called him back. “In the kitchen tonight love. TV can wait.”

“Ach…”

“Ach nothin. Get yer arse back here. Mon, we’ll have a wee chat. You and me.”

He flumped down as if to his last meal prior to execution. She sat opposite him across the kitchen table, the smell of the fried dinner thickening the air between them. For a few minutes they ate, because he didn’t eat enough for her liking and she wanted to make sure he had a good few mouthfuls before she started, and started she meant to.

“So,” she said, when enough of the portion before him had been dispensed with, “what’s brought all this on about yer Da?”

He shrugged. “Nothin.”

“Danny…” she said warningly, giving him an eyebrow-quirked look. “I’m yer Mummy amp’ten I? How many years now have you seen yer Da go here and there and then outta the blue tonight I get the questions?”

Again he shrugged, if in a little less of an outright wanting-to-change-the-subject way. “I dunno,” he said. “I just…like, he just seems a bit…have you noticed him bein a bit…”

She frowned. “A bit what?”

A third shrug. It was Shrugville in here tonight. He was well on his way to being a model teenager on this evidence. “Bit I dunno. Bit grumpy,” he said, and then promptly filled his mouth with food in what seemed to be partly embarrassment and partly a sense he was going to get in trouble for saying what he’d just said.

Linda felt the fuzzy amusement she’d been feeling about this whole spate of curiosity from her son dissipate. Danny was serious, she could see that. She paused, going through the last few days, weeks, even months in her head, scanning them for any signs of odd behaviour from her husband of these past fourteen years.

Tony Morrigan wasn’t a verbose soul, that was an understatement. She hadn’t married him for his scintillating conversational skills. He’d been young and dashing, and there had been rumours around the place that he was a bit dangerous, which in this place usually meant you were mixing with a certain class of people, but in all the years she’d known him he’d never once demonstrated the slightest sign of interest in religion, pro or anti one side or the other.

The dangerous thing had never really panned out, but she’d been glad, because he was a devoted partner and a kind, good-hearted man, and he doted on wee Danny. His wee Miracle, he called him. So if her son thought his Da was being a bit off with him, something was wrong one way or the other, and she was concerned immediately.

“What makes ya say that, son? I’m sure your Da’s fine…”

Danny’s head was still turned down into his plate. When he spoke it was in the mumble of a child saying words he didn’t want to say and as is sometimes the case with children, when the tap was turned on it was turned on full blast.

“Just that when he comes back from a trip, like, he usually is dead pleased to be back and he would take me out for a wee dander round the place or if it’s night like sit and talk to me for ages about how school is and Steve and all that oul stuff and for the last few months he’s been like quiet and even when he came back last week from that one away down South he never came to get me from school and I waited about for him and he was here paintin the house and I know that’s like important but when I says to him can I help ya a wee bit he just got a bit angry or somethin and said no and then he came up to see me later on and said he was sorry and that yes I should learn to paint cos ya never know what skills ya might need to learn and it was a bit weird cos he hugged me and like I could sorta see that he mighta been cryin and I was talkin to ones in school about what made their Da’s act a bit strange and they said maybe it’s his work is gettin him like maybe he’s gettin paid off and he hasn’t told ya or yer Ma yet.”

He paused and took a breath and didn’t look up, which was just as well because Linda’s mouth had formed a large O of astonishment which would have derailed him entirely.

“That’s what happened Steve’s Da,” he concluded, and went back to the food conveyor belt.

“Ach son,” Linda said, and did the worst thing she could have possibly done by getting up and going to him and enveloping him in a big hug, which made him determined never to talk about his real feelings ever again if his reward was going to be a Mummy Hug Of Doom and having to watch her pretend she didn’t have tears in her eyes, “ach Jesus…you’re imagining things. He’s probably just had a bad headache or somethin; he gets them sometimes, sure as God. And sure didn’t he come and show you the paintin, and a brill job yous two did of it an all! Place looks grand!”

“Mmmf,” Danny agreed, with a faceful of cardigan. At that point he would have agreed to substituting the tomato sauce for Strychnine had it meant release.

She let him go and sat back down, wiping her eyes. “And sure he’ll be back tomorrow night. He’s away in Meath I think he said looking at some hills or somethin or other. Do you want me to give him a wee shout and let you have a wee word with him? I have the number of the B&B he’s at.”

Have a wee word with him?” Danny echoed, aghast. “And say what?”

“Tell him you’re worried about him and you think he’s bein a wee bit…cold, distant.”

Danny’s jaw dropped. “Tell him wha?” he choked. “He’s my Da fer Jesus’ sake!”

“Danny!” she snapped reflexively.

“Sorry,” he mouthed, and fairly gulped down half a slice of fried bread like a frog swallowing a bluebottle. “Can I go now?” he pleaded. “I’m finished, look. I’m all done. Can I go?”

“Aye go on. You sure you’re-”

The kitchen door had already closed, leaving her alone with her thoughts. She pottered away with the dishes for a while, and heard him tramping upstairs; it wasn’t even 9pm, but he’d obviously decided to take himself off to bed, and she knew he could be trusted to get his teeth done. He was a good wee boy, was Danny. He’d make some wee girl very happy one of these days. Even as she thought that her eyes misted over automatically and she went back to splashing around with the dishes until they were washed and dried and put away.

Her eyes lingered on the phone, resting on its cradle in the kitchen.

A few seconds later she was holding a scrap of paper in her hand, stabbing the keys with her other hand on the phone to dial in the B&B’s number. Danny might not want to talk to his Da, but after all that emotion (all hers, but even so) she could do with hearing his calm voice, and it’d do no harm to mention to him that he could do worse than to take his son - and in all likeliness that big lig Steve as well - along to a wee football match or somethin at the weekend. Fellas loved their football. She knew that as sure as sure. Football’d see them right.

“Tony Morrigan’s room please?” she said.

I’m sorry madam,” the musical Irish voice came back. She’d always been a bit jealous of the Southern Irish lilt; her own Belfast twang sounded like someone gargling with razor wire by comparison. “We don’t have anyone by that name here.

“Are you sure?”

Quite sure, madam.

She hung up, frowning. That was strange. Tony always used that B&B when he was down that neck of the woods, which - come to think of it - seemed to be often enough that there must be precious few bumps in the Earth in that part of the island that he hadn’t triangulated within an inch of their lives.

She shrugged. Maybe she’d get him one of them mobiles when the prices came down another fair whack. He’d phone tomorrow and she’d mention to him then and ask him what had changed his plans.

Going to bed, some time and some soap operas later, she saw Danny’s room door closed. The ancient Mummy instincts inside her screamed at her to go inside and check he was sound asleep, maybe adjust his covers just a wee bit, even if they were perfectly set upon him; it wasn’t about that, after all, it was just about giving them a wee touch, just to let yourself know you’d contributed in some physical way to their peaceful slumber.

But he was ten years old. And if he wasn’t asleep, his oul Mummy coming in was sure to send him into an indignant tizzy and he’d only end up broaching the subject of locks for the door, and then they’d be through the Looking Glass and either Steve would never get staying again or she’d have to wage a non-stop one-woman reign of guerilla warfare until Channel 4 was shut down for good.

So she restrained herself, and felt proud, and went into sleep, trying not to think about the unoccupied half of her own bed.

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